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Noah and the Flood

Author: Scriptural Reasoning Society (scholarly interfaith discussion)

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Members of the Scriptural Reasoning Society 1 (SR) use NowComment to contribute perspectives on the story of Noah and the Flood as told, in varying ways, in the Hebrew Bible (or the "Old Testament”), the New Testament, and the Qu'ran. Prof. Peter Ochs, University of Virginia, has added three discussion questions below their related passages. 2

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Genesis

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Sep 16
Sameer Yadav (Sep 16 2010 8:01PM) : Gen. 5:29 - Lamech's hope for Noah is to grant rest to the widest possible "us" -- to humanity. more

Gen. 5:29 says “Now he [Lamech] called his name Noah, saying, ‘This one shall give us rest from our work and from the toil of our hands arising from the ground which the LORD has cursed.’”

When Noah is first introduced in the narrative by his naming in this verse, it seems to set an important trajectory for his story. The “rest” that Lamech hopes Noah will bring is related not only to his kinship to Lamech, but a rest that is for “us.” I wonder who the “us” is here? The following sentence suggests to me something provocative. It says that the rest of Noah is a rest from our “work” and “toil” arising from the “ground” (“adamah”) which was cursed by God back in Gen. 3:17 (using the same word for “toil”, “’itzzabon”). This allusion to God’s curse over humankind (“adam”) suggests that Lamech’s hope for Noah is to grant rest to the widest possible “us” — to humanity. This connection between the particularity of Noah as vested with a redemptive hope for the universality of humanity seems to me to function as the beginning of an arc — the identification of Noah’s story with the unmaking and re-making of God’s created order.

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Oct 11
Prof. Peter Ochs (Oct 11 2010 6:01AM) : "Give us rest from our work" more

Rest from this curse. Will this be rest by way of water? Is humanity washed of its sin? Or is this a prototype for what will be the tradition of purification by “mikvah?” The well of Miriam. The priestly cleansing of Aaron; the cleansing of the priest on Yom Kippur. The rabbinic practices of women’s menstrual cleansing, or men and women’s cleansing after any issue — or before Shabbat?… Or will these be like the waters of the Torah(Ps. 104, “the wide sea,” which for the Midrash on Psalms 104 is the sea of Torah)?

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Oct 11
Dr. Muhammad Legenhausen (Oct 11 2010 5:37PM) : Water, water everywhere more

Water divides: the pure from the impure (baptized from unbaptized), Egypt from Israel, the drowned from the saved. This is not drinking water, not the water of life. It is dangerous water: the Red Sea through which Moses walked, the flood waters beneath Noah’s ark, the water on which Jesus walked, and Muhammad, too, claimed to be the ship on the universal ocean (according to some hadiths).
In what flood waters are we drowning from which the prophets can save us?

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Nov 4
Prof. Peter Ochs (Nov 04 2010 5:55AM) : What power of division in water? more

Muhammad, what power of division do you refer to in water? In Genesis, are the waters not prior to creative speech and prior to God’s forming-through-division? But, then, this division itself appears life giving, since it allows for the distinctness and individuality that enables life forms…..

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Sep 17
Dr. David Dault (Sep 17 2010 3:04AM) : Is the rainbow a miracle or a new interpretation of a natural event? more

I have always been curious as to the matter of the rainbow (not included in this excerpt) – light being split into a spectrum by water droplets. When I have worked with Evangelical Christian students they have assured me that, prior to the mention in Genesis, there were no rainbows. In other words, G-d alters the laws of physics to make the point. The other option, of course, is that G-d simply offers a new interpretation of a physical phenomenon. Miracles or hermeneutics? That is the question.

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[ begin Genesis 6 excerpt ]

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6:5 And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.

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6:6 And it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart.

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6:7 And the LORD said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth me that I have made them.

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Sep 16
Prof. Tom Greggs (Sep 16 2010 8:06PM) : because God is so sorry to have created humanity, he decides to destroy animals and birds as well? more

I am struck by the relationship between the animal and the human in the Genesis account of the flood. God is so offended by humanity, he decides to give up on creation (Gen 6:6-7). The idea is that because God is so sorry to have created humanity, he decides to destroy animals and birds as well. Thus, God’s finding favour with Noah not only secures the continuation of humanity, but also the continuation of all animals and birds: the existence of non-human creation is both dependent in the story on the failures of humanity in general, and the righteousness of one man, Noah, in particular. Noah’s righteousness seems such that it not only facilitates the continuance of all living things, but also is rewarded by the continuance of all living things: for the sake of the righteousness of this one human, God preserves the full generosity, variety and particularity of His creation. This surely says something about the power of the righteousness of just one person. As a Christian, I can’t help but think typologically about this story, as one which prefigures Christ. The righteousness of the one man, Noah, saves creation, through preservation; the righteousness of one man, Jesus, saves (for me as a Christian) creation through redemption and renewal.

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** Question 1: After this, rainbow covenant or not, why are we perplexed by subsequent destructions? **

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By training I’m a computer scientist. I taught CS at a Virgin… (more)

Oct 10
John Fairfield

By training I’m a computer scientist. I taught CS at a Virgin… (more)

(Oct 10 2010 7:58PM) : God changes? more

I’m unsure what you’re asking here. Do you mean, 1) we’re given a perfectly good reason: God regrets the whole mess and has hit reboot once, so what do we expect? Or do you mean 2) that we are perplexed by God’s fickleness: first he creates, then he curses, then he destroys, then he promises never to do it that way again (a weasely promise if ever I heard one)? Or is it 3) that we’re perplexed by having a God with whom we can argue, who vacillates, who negotiates with us, who makes contracts. Assuming that you’ll say “Oh any of the above”, I’ll just add that I’m delighted with the idea of a God with whom we can negotiate. I think we finite mortals need to negotiate, there’s no surviving otherwise. The advantages for tiny motes of negotiating with an otherwise intractable immense universe are huge. IT listens to us, whose entire planet wouldn’t make a star burp?

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Oct 11
Dr. Muhammad Legenhausen (Oct 11 2010 5:48PM) : repent? more

I’m perplexed. How can God repent or regret? Then the LORD says he is going to destroy it all, but he doesn’t. Maybe that answers the question. God can regret only if he regrets the regretting, by a kind of double negation!

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6:8 But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD.

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6:9 These are the generations of Noah: Noah was a just man and perfect in his generations, and Noah walked with God.

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6:10 And Noah begat three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth.

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6:11 The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence.

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6:12 And God looked upon the earth, and, behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth.

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6:13 And God said unto Noah, The end of all flesh is come before me; for the earth is filled with violence through them; and, behold, I will destroy them with the earth.

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6:14 Make thee an ark of gopher wood; rooms shalt thou make in the ark, and shalt pitch it within and without with pitch.

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6:15 And this is the fashion which thou shalt make it of: The length of the ark shall be three hundred cubits, the breadth of it fifty cubits, and the height of it thirty cubits.

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6:16 A window shalt thou make to the ark, and in a cubit shalt thou finish it above; and the door of the ark shalt thou set in the side thereof; with lower, second, and third stories shalt thou make it.

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6:17 And, behold, I, even I, do bring a flood of waters upon the earth, to destroy all flesh, wherein is the breath of life, from under heaven; and everything that is in the earth shall die.

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6:18 But with thee will I establish my covenant; and thou shalt come into the ark, thou, and thy sons, and thy wife, and thy sons' wives with thee.

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6:19 And of every living thing of all flesh, two of every sort shalt thou bring into the ark, to keep them alive with thee; they shall be male and female.

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6:20 Of fowls after their kind, and of cattle after their kind, of every creeping thing of the earth after his kind, two of every sort shall come unto thee, to keep them alive.

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6:21 And take thou unto thee of all food that is eaten, and thou shalt gather it to thee; and it shall be for food for thee, and for them.

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6:22 Thus did Noah; according to all that God commanded him, so did he.

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[end of Genesis excerpt]

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Hebrews

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[ begin Hebrews 11 Excerpt ]

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11:1 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

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By training I’m a computer scientist. I taught CS at a Virgin… (more)

Oct 11
John Fairfield

By training I’m a computer scientist. I taught CS at a Virgin… (more)

(Oct 11 2010 3:39AM) : What is not seen is justice more

We should be blessed, not cursed, if we are reconciled with God. But things are going badly. What’s “not seen” is any payoff. Noah’s family was saved, why not mine? The answer seems to be patience (transl. “diligently seek him”). It might take 40 days and nights, i.e. a loooong long time. Actually I think it’s only in evolutionary time that injustice is a dead-end. For an individual that takes a lot of faith.

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Oct 11
Dr. Muhammad Legenhausen (Oct 11 2010 5:58PM) : faith and the inner life more

By faith we get beyond what is superficial, beyond appearances. By all appearances, we are doomed, drowning in violence and corruption. The divine guides show us how to hope get past that, and to see with the eyes of faith.

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11:2 For by it the elders obtained a good report.

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11:3 Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.

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11:4 By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts: and by it he being dead yet speaketh.

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11:5 By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God.

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11:6 But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.

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11:7 By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith.

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** Question 2: What righteousness, what faith is showed by one who acts with indifference to others than his household, even if commanded? **

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PhD Candidate Toronto School of Theology

Sep 17
Susan Harrison

PhD Candidate Toronto School of Theology

(Sep 17 2010 3:08AM) : Is righteousness the faith that saves, or responsiveness to the command of God? Are they two different things? more

Noah built the ark to save (for the salvation of) his family – it just so happens that his actions simultaneously condemn the world. Was that Noah’s choice of indifference, or describing the nature of how he came to be included in the list of the commended faithful ancients? Would Noah do it differently if “condemned” had soteriological implications beyond mere descriptive of the reality? Did he refuse the others, or they refuse his offer of Ark (saving)?

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By training I’m a computer scientist. I taught CS at a Virgin… (more)

Oct 11
John Fairfield

By training I’m a computer scientist. I taught CS at a Virgin… (more)

(Oct 11 2010 3:06AM) : Faith: negotiating with the good in an enemy more

Noah’s faith is that he sees the good side of an enemy. Someone out to destroy your planet is an enemy. That they will let your tiny boat live is a huge contradiction—why should something so fearfully opposed to humans keep a promise to one? I think we are condemned if, not believing that there is any good in our enemies, we fail to negotiate with it.

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Oct 11
Dr. Muhammad Legenhausen (Oct 11 2010 6:14PM) : God as enemy? more

God isn’t really out to destroy the planet, that’s why pairs of all the species are put in the ark. Each of the saved couples and Noah’s family are representatives of all—-the rest are assumed to be wicked and to be washed away in the flood, even the other animals! This can’t make any sense unless the “saved” and the “drowned” are only placeholders for what is good in creation and what is corrupt. It is still hard to get a grip on what is corrupt in nature or how it could be purged. Is the corruption of nature a projection of the corruption of man, like when Eliot projects the anesthesia of modern man: “When the evening is spread out against the sky like a patient etherized upon a table”? I’m floundering!

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Having spent ten years in the Middle East working in the enco… (more)

Oct 11
Rev. Roy Hange

Having spent ten years in the Middle East working in the enco… (more)

(Oct 11 2010 10:45PM) : Why does the saving of ones own house often result in the destruction of another’s house? more

If creation is our common household those created in the image of God were destroying each other’s “house” in a way that stands in contrast to the peaceful creation story in Genesis. Humanity’s peaceful creation in Genesis by a Word and not the sword of the pagan myth (Enuma Elish narrative) has not kept them from destruction of their own values and the lives of others. So the Lord repented and grieved that he made man on earth (Gen. 6:6). Why was the ark a symbol of salvation in the early church in the midst of a ravenously corrupt and violent Roman empire? Why were they escaping the house of Rome for a new freedom? Why is the “house of Islam” built in contrast to “the great arrogance” of empires? Why is the house or Israel safe only in a house of its own?

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[ end of Hebrews 11 excerpt ]

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Sura 11 (HUD): 25-49

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By training I’m a computer scientist. I taught CS at a Virgin… (more)

Sep 18
John Fairfield

By training I’m a computer scientist. I taught CS at a Virgin… (more)

(Sep 18 2010 12:35AM) : shall we compel you? more

Methinks God speaks here of two people, of Noah, and of Muhammad. The parallels are many—a warner, that ye serve none but Allah, reviled, and more. The thrust is that, unlike the usual logic of government, he does not compel us to make us behave. A warner leaves us free to resist. So we should treat our enemies. A warner uses no force. We have no standing to do anything but warn. Warning leaves the decision to the enemy—“thy will be done.” So persevere patiently.

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Revealed At: MAKKA

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Translator: Abdullah Yusuf Ali

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[ begin Sura 11 excerpt ]

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11:25 We sent Noah to his people [with a mission]: "I have come to you with a Clear Warning:"

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11:26 "That ye serve none but Allah: Verily I do fear for you the penalty of a grievous day."

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11:27 But the chiefs of the Unbelievers among his people said: "We see [in] thee nothing but a man like ourselves: Nor do we see that any follow thee but the meanest among us, in judgment immature: Nor do we see in you [all] any merit above us: in fact we think ye are liars!"

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11:28 He said: "O my people! See ye if [it be that] I have a Clear Sign from my Lord, and that He hath sent Mercy unto me from His own presence, but that the Mercy hath been obscured from your sight? Shall we compel you to accept it when ye are averse to it?"

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11:29 "And O my people! I ask you for no wealth in return: my reward is from none but Allah: But I will not drive away [in contempt] those who believe: for verily they are to meet their Lord, and ye I see are the ignorant ones!"

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11:30 "And O my people! who would help me against Allah if I drove them away? Will ye not then take heed?"

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11:31 "I tell you not that with me are the treasures of Allah, nor do I know what is hidden, nor claim I to be an angel. Nor yet do I say, of those whom your eyes do despise that Allah will not grant them [all] that is good: Allah knoweth best what is in their souls: I should, if I did, indeed be a wrong-doer."

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11:32 They said: "O Noah! thou hast disputed with us, and [much] hast thou prolonged the dispute with us: now bring upon us what thou threatenest us with, if thou speakest the truth!"

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11:33 He said: "Truly, Allah will bring it on you if He wills, and then, ye will not be able to frustrate it!"

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11:34 "Of no profit will be my counsel to you, much as I desire to give you [good] counsel, if it be that Allah willeth to leave you astray: He is your Lord! and to Him will ye return!"

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11:35 Or do they say, "He has forged it"? Say: "If I had forged it, on me were my sins! and I am free of the sins of which ye are guilty!"

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11:36 It was revealed to Noah: "None of thy people will believe except those who have believed already! So grieve no longer over their [evil] deeds."

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11:37 "But construct an Ark under Our eyes and Our inspiration, and address Me no [further] on behalf of those who are in sin: for they are about to be overwhelmed [in the Flood]."

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11:38 Forthwith he [started] constructing the Ark: Every time that the chiefs of his people passed by him, they threw ridicule on him. He said: "If ye ridicule us now, we [in our turn] can look down on you with ridicule likewise!"

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11:39 "But soon will ye know who it is on whom will descend a penalty that will cover them with shame - on whom will be unloosed a penalty lasting:"

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11:40 At length, behold! there came Our command, and the fountains of the earth gushed forth! We said: "Embark therein, of each kind two, male and female, and your family - except those against whom the word has already gone forth - and the Believers." but only a few believed with him.

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11:41 So he said: "Embark ye on the Ark, In the name of Allah, whether it move or be at rest! For my Lord is, be sure, Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful!"

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11:42 So the Ark floated with them on the waves [towering] like mountains, and Noah called out to his son, who had separated himself [from the rest]: "O my son! embark with us, and be not with the unbelievers!"

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11:43 The son replied: "I will betake myself to some mountain: it will save me from the water." Noah said: "This day nothing can save, from the command of Allah, any but those on whom He hath mercy!" And the waves came between them, and the son was among those overwhelmed in the Flood.

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PhD Candidate Toronto School of Theology

Sep 17
Susan Harrison

PhD Candidate Toronto School of Theology

(Sep 17 2010 3:12AM) : Noah's son seems to represent the rest of the people - sure of their own ability to know what to do, even in the face of specific crisis - the worship of self-sufficiency over Allah. more

Does Noah condemn his son? No, he invites him, but he does not/cannot coerce him. Is it allegorical for God and humanity, this relationship? Noah states that on this day no one can save except Allah, which seems to resonate with the absoluteness of the Gen 6:7 passage, which even lacks mercy! We meet a God who only saves those who do specific commanded acts, behave righteously. The commendable faith of Hebrews, and perhaps Genesis and Qur’an as well, seems to be about doing something.

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Oct 11
Dr. Muhammad Legenhausen (Oct 11 2010 6:27PM) : Noah's son is not his son more

On the surface, God breaks his promise of saving Noah’s family because the son is drowned. God tells Noah to look past the surface of blood relations. The family is the righteous, regardless of blood. The son only sees the mountain refuge, and not the refuge of God. The people Noah warns only see his poverty and not his relation to God. So, the relation between Noah and his son is a sign that appearances may be deceiving, but that we can go beyond appearances by embarking on the vessel God provides for us.

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** Question 3: What do you think about the relation between Noah and his son? **

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11:44 Then the word went forth: "O earth! swallow up thy water, and O sky! Withhold [thy rain]!" and the water abated, and the matter was ended. The Ark rested on Mount Judi, and the word went forth: "Away with those who do wrong!"

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11:45 And Noah called upon his Lord, and said: "O my Lord! surely my son is of my family! and Thy promise is true, and Thou art the Justest of Judges!"

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11:46 He said: "O Noah! He is not of thy family: For his conduct is unrighteous. So ask not of Me that of which thou hast no knowledge! I give thee counsel, lest thou act like the ignorant!"

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11:47 Noah said: "O my Lord! I do seek refuge with Thee, lest I ask Thee for that of which I have no knowledge. And unless thou forgive me and have Mercy on me, I should indeed be lost!"

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11:48 The word came: "O Noah! Come down [from the Ark] with peace from Us, and blessing on thee and on some of the peoples [who will spring] from those with thee: but [there will be other] peoples to whom We shall grant their pleasures [for a time], but in the end will a grievous penalty reach them from Us."

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11:49 Such are some of the stories of the unseen, which We have revealed unto thee: before this, neither thou nor thy people knew them. So persevere patiently: for the End is for those who are righteous.

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[ end of Sura 11 excerpt ]

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1 Scriptural Reasoning (SR) was first established as a method for shared scriptural study among a small group of Jewish, Christian, and Muslim scholars of religion---scholars of scripture, of the traditions for scriptural interpretation, of theology, and of philosophy…collaborative study invites people from different religious communities to open their texts and hearts around the study table an then to return home with renewed and deepened understanding of both their own and their neighbors’ scriptural traditions. [SR brochure excerpt]

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2 Scriptural texts taken from Project Gutenberg:

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Genesis 6 –retrieved on July 9,2010 from:

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http://www.gutenberg.org/catalog/world/readfile?fk_files=34565&pageno=14

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http://www.gutenberg.org/catalog/world/readfile?fk_files=34565&pageno=15

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Hebrews 11 –retrieved on July9,2010 from:

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http://www.gutenberg.org/catalog/world/readfile?fk_files=34565&pageno=1872

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http://www.gutenberg.org/catalog/world/readfile?fk_files=34565&pageno=1873

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Sura 11 –retreived on July15,2010 from:

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http://www.gutenberg.org/catalog/world/readfile?fk_files=202610&pageno=418

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http://www.gutenberg.org/catalog/world/readfile?fk_files-202610@pageno=419

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http://www.gutenberg.org/catalog/world/readfile?fk_files-202610@pageno=420

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http://www.gutenberg.org/catalog/world/readfile?fk_files-202610@pageno=421

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http://www.gutenberg.org/catalog/world/readfile?fk_files-202610@pageno=422

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http://www.gutenberg.org/catalog/world/readfile?fk_files-202610@pageno=423

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http://www.gutenberg.org/catalog/world/readfile?fk_files-202610@pageno=424

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DMU Timestamp: November 09, 2010 14:39

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